Saturday, 21 March 2015

Find My Past and Bethlem Museum of the Mind records online

I was pleased to hear that the Bethlem record series went online on Thursday 19 March 2015 as this nationally important archive of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world contained people from many locations in the country.
I first used the Find My Past search engine to explore local parishes in Kent and each time on a residence search drew a blank. However using Beckenham,Kent I located a number of entries relating to residents in the Bromley District. Examining the digitised image of one admission and discharge entry I found that the transcriber had rendered an address in Bickley as Buckley and duly entered corrections of the errors. I realised that the search engine was not searching residence of the admitted patient but was yielding results for the addresses of their surety or relatives and could not see a way in which the search could be amended to narrow results.
On Friday I transcribed a funeral account which recorded an 1875 collection of a body from Bethlehem Hospital in London for burial at Bromley. The funeral account refers to Harriet Matilda Batten wife of a coachman to Mister Alston of Fairfield Bickley being buried at Holy Trinity Bromley Common and my transcript of the Holy Trinity burial register Kent Online Parish Clerks Bromley Holy Trinity Burials gives Page Heath as the family residence.
I happened to know that Harriet Matilda Batten was a mother of eight children by this time (at the age of 34) as I had dealt with a request for information about her from a descendant. The admission to Bethlem was therefore of interest as I have long tried to establish whether people in Bromley were sent to Barming in case of mental health problems requiring detention or whether they may have been transferred to Bethlem in London.
Mrs Batten appears to be exceptional in transferring to Bethlem as inmates of the Bromley Poor Law Union seem generally to be taken to Barming as the County Asylum and one might expect that relatives and local medical practioners to take that route. Also by this date medical Practitioners in the town were able to admit women with difficult problems during or after childbirth to Bromley Cottage Hospital. From the account later found at Bethlem it appears that the journey to Barming was too arduous and the Cottage Hospital could not manage her behaviour and the shorter journey to London and Bethlem was chosen. Mrs Batten proved to have a different and sad end and the case notes are useful in recording her illness and death.
I went to Find My Past and entered Bromley,Kent and Bickley,Kent as search terms with the surname only since a married woman with two given names may have been recorded in a number of ways. My search failed until I removed a residence field from the search and used the year of death year of birth fields. I then located the hospital admission and discharge entry for Matilda Batten and also located her case notes.
Following the birth of her eighth child her health had declined and she entered Bethlem in November 1875 in a very weak state. She had "been confined with childbirth on 9-10 November 1875 and there had been difficulty with after birth with considerable bleeding". At the same time her manner and mood had altered and her case notes record her refusing food and "saying and shouting for hours together" that she had seen Jesus and he was going to work a great miracle. She had never asked to see her new born child. With little food or sleep over 3 or 4 days a fever and deluded a decision was taken to take her to Bethlem in London. On 1 December she was taken to bed at Bethlem and took a liquid diet. The case notes on 2 December express the view that she would not recover. She died at 8-45 pm on 10 December 1875 and the death notice in the case notes includes that she was continually visited by friends. The notice records how weak she was on admission and unable to get out of bed and that death was of natural causes. She had been constantly attended at Bethlem and two Attendants were present when she died.Her hospital number was 5776 and the causes of death were congestion of the lungs and exhaustion after acute mania.
Joseph Dunn in his funeral account refers to the removal of a child burial to permit her stout elm coffin to be interred and her infant child re-interred above her as was commonplace at the time.
Whilst I appreciate the online availability of the Bethlem records it does feel that the Find My Past search engine and indeed the transcription quality leave a little to be desired. I am quite concerned that the data fields for a person's residence cannot reflect local places in the largest geographical London Borough and hope that further work can be undertaken to improve searches in this collection.

Monday, 16 March 2015

"Dead and bright handles"

From 1803 Edward Dunn (the elder) and later his son Edward in their accounts books refer to coffin furniture including dead and bright handles. I came to learn that in the period 1803-1830 Edward used a wide variety of metals in furnishing his coffins. It also became apparent that the more lavish large funeral corteges required him to use a wide inventory of coffin furniture and many types of nails.
When his son took over the range of decorations of coffin lids began to appear repeatedly in accounts.
Both Edward's were literate but their spelling on some accounts suggests that some commonplace aspects of funerals had not reached a uniform spelling; Mattrass was still being used it is not until the 1850's that mattress is adopted at the end of Edward the younger's career before Joseph Dunn takes over the funerals for the Dunn Bromley Market Square company.
I have researched the sourcing most likely for the Dunn funeral inventory and was not entirely surprised to find that my native county of Warwickshire and one part of Birmingham provided all the goods needed by the Dunn's.
Nail manufacture took place in many locations but the specific types of nail required for the layers of black or white headed exterior  coffin decoration were most reliably manufactured in Birmingham and when Edward Dunn's accounts of Bromley district funerals began in 1803 the Birmingham and Midland hardware manufacturers were developing new metals with which to provide metal funeral wares.
Prior to 1804 two metals black lead and tinned metal were used for "coffin-lace" and handles to provide black or white "gripes " or grip handles which can be found employed in Edward Dunn's accounts. He also made and stocked wooden handles. For larger and more ornate funerals brass handles were stocked and "superb" "massive" preceded descriptions of handles which appear to bear arms or coronets.
In 1804 in Birmingham Thomas Dobbs invented "Albion Metal" which consisted of tin laid on lead and pressed into thin sheets which were then pressed to form coffin handles or plates. It became possible for Birmingham to supply through the pressed metal manufacture both black or white on black furniture in addition to the one foundry supplying cast iron coffin handles in the same district of Birmingham. Local nail manufacture using various metals supplied black and white headed exterior nails for coffins.
Bright varnishing black finished items was accompanied by the use of  a dead black being highlighted with bright white or golden hues which could offer the funeral trade alternative colour schemes for preparation of coffins. The early adoption of Albion metal "dead and bright" handles is evident in Edward Dunn's accounts of the Georgian and Regency period.
In several accounts both Edward's described white on black plates of inscription with tin laid on lead.
Several lid decorations from the classical "Glory and an urn" through various child and flowers decorations as well as the Angelic styles of lid ornaments are mentioned.
As I have indicated in earlier blog sadly there are account books lost in various fires at the expanding Market Square premises. When Edward's carrer is ending in the 1850's and Joseph is trading in the 1860's and seventies the detail of ornaments is less but there are substantial metal decorations of coffin lids covering lid from head to foot.
Brirmingham still conserves one of the later Coffin Works Newman Brothers began manufacture in 1882 for a history of this see Newman Brothers history.,the Coffin works store, I like to imagine resembles a part of the Dunn premises at Market Square which could when required produce a bespoke coffin for a child in under 24 hours to accompany a sibling burial.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Botany Bay Cottages Keston Kent

Serendipity (noun) defined as:
The occurence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
It is now some years since I transcribed part of Keston Parish registers and found references to Botany Bay or Botany Bay cottages but I could never locate a named place on any map held at Bromley Archive.
This week my colleague Bob Cooper was researching gypsy families in a group of parishes and found references to a family living at Botany Bay Cottages in the Bromley Holy Trinity registers.
On 11 March 2015 we had pursued my thought that the cottages could be in Keston parish but again could not find the name on a map ( the same applied to mapping of Sheep Wash Cottage although we knew this location from other references).
Within two hours of our leaving for the day another searcher was examining maps and happened to mention that he should include Botany Bay Cottages in his material.
The unmarked four cottages are shown on maps!
Somewhat isolated but not far from the windmill the name of the cottages seems appropriate and in our combined experience "Botany Bay" often is used as a field or cottage name in relatively distant location.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Edward Dunn Funeral Accounts 1840-1857

There is a gap in the funeral account books at Bromley Archives deposited by the Dunn Family when the business ceased trading in the 1970's.
The missing account books were lost in one of a series of fires at the Market Square premises of the firm.
Edward Dunn took over the funeral trade in Bromley from his father Edward who died in 1830. The funeral accounts to 1839 reflect the burials of paupers from the parish Poorhouse as well as the notable persons of the District. The missing accounts sadly miss the opening of the Bromley Union Workhouse and the searcher must examine the Bromley parish burial register to identify burials from the Union Workhouse.
By 1858 when Edward's accounts resume the funeral trade in Bromley has altered. The coming of the railway in 1858 enables Edward to convey coffins with an Attendant to various places of burial including the major Cemeteries which had grown around London and are often referred to as the "Magnificent Seven". West Norwood Cemetery Wikipedia and the origin of the nickname for the seven cemeteries are explained in Magnificent seven cemetery Wikipedia.
The South Metropolitan Cemetery at Norwood features regularly in burials after 1858 but burials at Nunhead in South London as well as Brompton and Highgate are represented from Bromley. Edward is also able to bury at Kemptown near Brighton and collect bodies from Hucclecote in Gloucestershire using railways. Burials at Tower Hamlets Cemetery are also carried out with bearers and fittings travelling by rail. One train from Croydon to Brighton carries not only the coffin (protected in several yards of calico) but also a coach to convey mourners from Brighton station.
Norwood had been created following the South Metropolitan Cemetery Act of 1836 and held it's first burials in 1837. The Act permitted a payment to Parish Vestries of a parochial benefice of 7s 6d per full price adult burial but only 1s 6d for a pauper. Norwood therefore attracted burials of the wealthy whereas the poor could be buried more cheaply at Tower Hamlets which charged only 9 shillings for adult pauper communal burial compared to £1 at Nunhead and 17s-6d at Norwood.
Edward appears to be the only local funeral trader. He regularly employs large groups of men and in accordance with tradition has an appropriately fitted Attendant stay with the corpse overnight on the eve of burial. It is believed that these women were local midwives who would wash the corpse and dress prior to the corpse being placed in either the shell or coffin(s). In many accounts the Attendant accompanies Edward to the "taking in" of coffins.
The traditional horse drawn funeral hearse (now owned by Dunn),the upholstery and furniture removal vans to collect and convey coffins with suitable fittings and Dunn's own horses for funeral work are a feature which develops post 1830. Dunn employs some local coachmen regularly although not exclusively and local turnpikes particularly on London Road are used to collect coffins for local interment in Bromley and nearby parishes. The missing account years concide with an interesting development of local funerals as in the Victorian era we see the need for large cemeteries and the beginning of rail conveyance of not only coffins but bearers and fittings.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Elsie March 1884-1974 Goddendene Locksbottom

I volunteer at Bromley Archives and have the opportunity to greet Winston Churchill each morning!
This bust of Churchill is a rather neglected feature of the archive search room.
It is the work of the remarkable Elsie March who was the seventh child of nine,eight of whom were artists or sculptors.British Pathe  1924 has a silent film depicting "Sister and Seven brothers" at work in the extensive three studios on the seven acre grounds of 17 room Goddendene in Locksbottom which the family occupied from 1901. The studios included an iron foundry and here was cast the National War Memorial of Canada sculptures which were exhibited in Hyde Park in London after their casting in 1932. They had to be stored in the studios at Goddendene as they could not be shipped to Canada until the ground was prepared and the stone work of the monument completed. The family were involved in the installation which was completed by October 1938.
Elsie was the last of the family to die and her ashes were added to the family burials at Saint Giles Farnborough. The burial plot is marked by a bronze angel the 1922 work of her brother Sydney March.
A full biography of Elsie March Wikipedia contains further information about Goddendene.
The site of Goddendene is now a supermarket with scant reference to the family or history of the site Supermarket site
The bust of Churchill has been within The Library Bromley which opened in the 1970's but few people are aware of or notice him. He currently sits above a safe since an earlier home was needed for display space. Strangely the bust never entered Bromley Museum's collection at Orpington Priory now threatened with closure due to cuts by central government which are impacting all local government services. The proposed abolition of the Museum service and redundancy of staff has been deferred until later this year and this would lead to some museum displays being moved to The Library. For now Churchill remains in place on the second floor on a firm foundation.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Amelia Long (Lady Farnborough) Bromley Hill House

As I have now completed the folio of Edward Dunn's funeral accounts from 1830-1839 for online publication as a transcript for Kent Online Parish Clerks later this year I reflected on not only the the two largest funerals that Edward organised in nearly a decade but also the extraordinary achievement of Amelia Long wife of the First Baron Farnborough.
Amelia Hume was the daughter of Sir Abraham Hume an amateur artist and friend of Joshua Reynolds. He also collected art and when Amelia showed skill she became a pupil in the 1790's of  Thomas Girtin and Francis Eridge.
In 1793 Amelia married Charles Long who at the time was member of Parliament for Rye in Sussex but later represented Midhurst Wendover and Haslemere. He was a friend of William Pitt since their Cambridge days and his political career can be found in Charles Long Wikipedia entry.
In 1801 the couple who were childless in their marriage purchased the estate of Bromley Hill House which was to be their country home until their deaths. A local history of the estate and house is found Ravensbourne Valley History.
Amelia began to design and landscape the wooded valley utilising the springs that formed tributaries to the River Ravensbourne. She also painted several scens of the Bromley Hill grounds most notably of the view to London which included the distant dome of Saint Pauls. The auction of one work isfound here.
Amelia's talent and resourcefulness are quite remarkable. Her husband was to serve in major offices of State and to be a member of the Privy Council and to be awarded the order of the Bath by George IV. He furthered the cause of the art and was a powerful influence in the establishment of the National Gallery and purchase of the Elgin Marbles. Charles was awarded a Baronetcy and became first Baron Farnborough.
The death of Amelia on 15 January 1837 meant that Edward Dunn was engaged to make the funeral arrangements. Edward's father's surviving dedicated accounts of funerals date from 1803 until his son Edward takes over in 1830 the year of Edward Senior's death. Edward had between 1830 and Amelia's death arranged many funerals for nobility and was accustomed to burials far away from Bromley.
Amelia and Charles who died in 1838 had expressed a wish to be buried in Wormley Hertfordshire and Edward Dunn mentions in both accounts Wormleybury Manor as the point of arrival of the funeral procession. The Right Honourable Lord Farnborough commissions Edward to make Amelia's funeral arrangements and incidentally pays the cost of £270-4s-0d. Amelia died on 15 January 1837 aged 66 years. The funeral account includes "a stout elm shell stuffed with best wool lined and trimmed with rich white satin inside a stout lead coffin and stout oak outside coffin with rich crimson silk velvet finished with 3 rows of best brass nails" and what Edward Dunn describes as "superb massive brass handles coronets and ornament and a brass engraved plate with arms and supporters Coronet and inscription".
The departure from Bromley Hill House was witnessed by 42 household servants ( Edward Dunn had fitted them with crepe bands) and a hearse pulled by 6 horses and three coaches and four horses were to accompany the coffin through Lewisham and London to Wormleybury Manor in Hertfordshire. In all 28 men from Bromley were employed to travel to the funeral. Arrangements for tolling bells at Bromley and Lewisham were paid for. Two Feathermen were included. They were to both equip the horses coaches and hearse with feathers and in part to carry a board with feathers in front of the hearse. The hearse itself was not only dressed in best black feathers velvets and hammercloths (which covered the coachman's seat and had smaller coronets and crests) but also had "rich side pieces with arms supporters crest motto and large coronet with smaller for hammercloths and tail piece" The coffin beneath a state Velvet pall had a lid of black feathers and a crimson silk velvet cushion with Baron Farnborough's coronet. The coaches had 2 dressed porters with truncheons and the 10 coach pages had staffs and wands.
Edward Dunn had previously travelled to Wormley and there had "two one and a half yard Achievements with supporters mantle crest and pedestal Bath ribbon coronet in black and gold frames" arranged. He had used 18 yards of "super black cloth for fixing to the pulpit Curates Desk Clerks desk and communion table and a rich majesty escutcheon"  The account implies burial at Wormley church but there is no item for a vault or tomb or work commissioned by Edward Dunn.
The widower Charles Long died 18 January 1838 aged 80 years and Edward Dunn is commissioned by the Executors for the estate to undertake arrangements at a cost of £427-1s-6d using a hearse and six horses and five coaches and fours employing 31 men as bearers porters pages  7 coachmen and 2 feathermen. The company appear to spend the night at Waltham Cross before the onward journey on funeral day. This arrangement of a funeral resting overnight is described in more detail in another account of longer distance travel in which Edward describes arrangments for a room for the night for the coffin and Attendants; requiring paid bearers to remove the coffin from the hearse and return it the following morning. Edward is experienced in such funerals in Suffolk Essex Kent and Sussex as well as many burials in London and Middlesex and had assisted his father in several others long distance funerals.
During this period there are other undertakers in the Bromley area but Edward Dunn accounts for a large proportion of burials in Bromley.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Gallery

19 February saw the opening of the former admin building at Bethlem Hospital in Beckenham as home to both the Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery. I value the archive of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world being within a simple public transport ride from my home. A previous life working at the hospital and my long link to the archive have kept me in touch with the planning of the new museum. I first visited the archive here in 1973 and was surprised at how little space was available to display or research. In those days the museum was only open by prior written appointment and it was usually necessary to give 7 days notice of intention to visit. I recall the old admin building entrance being carpeted so the modern entrance came as a surprise!
The entrance to the upper floor museum and gallery housing temporary or visiting exhibitions is the art deco stairway or by the new lift. The building is wheelchair accessible and is also friendly to other disabilities including deaf or hard of hearing.
The marbled entrance presents the Museums two largest sculptures appropriately welcoming visitors as centuries before they had been on top of the entrance gates to the old Bethlem Hospital in London. "Raving" and" Melancholy" madness the former chained were the work of Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber and from 1676 to 1815 were London landmarks. They are displayed now in ligt and blend well in my opinion with the art deco stairs to the upper floor. Their previous home is well captured in the BBC image of former museum
At the head of the stairs a timeline history of Bethlem Hospital and it's four sites guides the visitor through to the Museum entrance.
Here a floor to ceiling display with sound has an 18 minute film which describes the history of visitors to the hospital inmates of the 18th century mingled with contemporary staff patients relatives and visitors. I was able to contribute to this display in evoking Ned Ward's "confinement" in the early years of the eighteenth century and give him voice. The museum has made excellent use of space and I particularly like the glass wall to the area devoted to the use of physical restraint which contrasts the "padded cell" with the large estate outside which is home to the hospital buildings.

 For details of the Museum and Gallery see Visit london Guide.
The Gallery has space on both floors; the lower floor is home to contemporary art installations and has an artist at work. There is also a room to accommodate speakers and presentations. The gallery is a multi media experience and includes performance art by Liz Atkin and reflects the use of art therapy in the history of the hospital. The upper floor houses temporary exhibitions and the inaugural collection on display features the late Bryan Charnley entitled the Art of Scizophrenia. I have now viewed this exhibition twice and each time found that I gained insight into the paintings. Again the exhibits include not only the artist's work but his link to the collection;an invoice for the hospital purchase of several works alongside palette. This exhibition runs from 16 February-22 May 2015 and further planned exhibits will attract visitors to the Gallery.
I have one minor criticism of the new Museum which is that although highly attended the local road signage to a heritage site which has achieved international recognition in it's opening week on social media and in print is non-existent at present. The site signage has also not been updated. Fortunately the Museum and Gallery is facing the vehicle and pedestrian entrance in Monks Orchard Road but as a heritage site I do hope that the London Boroughs of bromley and Croydon will install brown road signage to guide visitors.
I mentioned that Ned Ward now has a voice in welcoming visitors here in floor to ceilinh multi media is his confinement.